When Should You Go To The Emergency Room During an AFib Attack?
Today, I’m going to be talking about a very important question I get frequently from my patients, which is, "When should I go to the emergency room? When do I need urgent medical attention?" This is a common question that I get, because patients want to have some guideline to know when is it safe to be at home. When patients get an AFib Attack, when is it that they should go to the emergency room or get urgent medical attention? It's important to have a gauge of what you typically experience or what you feel when you have episodes of atrial fibrillation.
Symptoms are the most important feature about urgent medical attention.
The challenge with giving this type of advice is that there's no clear guideline that says, for example, "If your heart rate is 150 for five minutes, then you should go to the emergency room." The reason why there's no clear guideline for that specific number is because people feel their symptoms so differently. I've had patients who have had elevated heart rates, such as, 120 or 130 bpm, for weeks at a time, and they are asymptomatic, and they're very perfectly stable for outpatient medical therapy and outpatient treatment, and don't require urgent treatment in the emergency room. However, people feel their episodes of atrial fibrillation very differently.
Them there are people, when they get episodes of atrial fibrillation, who feel very short of breath, or they feel dizzy or light-headed, or even having chest pain and having other severe symptoms when they develop their episodes of atrial fibrillation. If you're having episodes of atrial fibrillation and you're having severe symptoms such as feeling, dizzy, light-headed, or even passing out, or having chest pain, it doesn't matter where the number is of the heart rate. It doesn't matter if it's 120, 150, or even higher. If you're having severe symptoms, that's what really drives your need to have urgent medical attention.
Strategies to Manage Atrial Fibrillation at Home:
You may want to discuss with your own personal doctor tactics or strategy to have at home when you get episodes of atrial fibrillation. For some of my patients, I usually recommend taking additional medications to help try to alleviate the symptom and to see if they can be treated at home to try to minimize trips to the emergency room. It certainly can be a useful strategy for some patients, but please discuss with your doctor, discuss your individual medications, and discuss if it's safe to take extra medication if you get an episode of atrial fibrillation. When taking extra medications, it’s always important to have something that keep track of your heart rate or blood pressure, such as a wearable heart rate tracker or a blood pressure cuff.